I mention our pilot because he, not knowing anything about our group of travelers (two men and two women), had assumed that because we were rooming by sex that we were two gay couples traveling together. Later, I had the chance to follow up on this misconception, asking Desiree, the lodge manager, how Namibia feels about gay travelers.
?We wouldn?t even give it a thought. We get all kinds of people here and their business is their business. Did you know that Angelina and Brad first approached us about renting out the whole lodge to have their baby here? We had too many guests booked to do that though.? Apparently no matter how remote you get in Namibia your personal life will stay personal, as long as you are not Brad and Angelina.
Being a gay traveler in Africa might be an issue in other parts of the continent, but Namibia is recognized as gay friendly. &Beyond, because it services mid- to high-end client with flexible, small tours, has worked hard to ensure that their staff is respectful of all of their clients.
?It?s pretty much a non-issue,? says PR manager Tarryn Davidson. ?If anyone has ever heard otherwise it was probably in reference to the previous president who made a very controversial speech in 1999 and made a stupid comment about homosexuality. The comment was retracted -- it was really so long ago and has absolutely no relevance for today?s gay travelers; they are welcome in Namibia.?
Our guide Vitalis Chingo, a man with more enthusiasm then a cheerleader at the Super Bowl, could have cared less who was sleeping where and with whom. Originally from Mozambique, Vitalis has been with &Beyond for six years and like our guide at Etosha National Park, was a bottomless pit of information when it came to animals, the Dunes, and the history of the area. We barely had time to drop our bags before he had us out the door for an evening ATV run at the dunes.
Toward the end of our ride Vitalis motions for us to kill our engines immediately. He puts his finger to his lips and mouths the word ?oryx.? We silently follow his lead on foot, then crawling, and as we come over the crest of the dune, instead of finding a herd of animals, we find a surprise ?sundowner,? the African version of happy hour. It is like a mirage in the Mars-like setting. Pillows and a low table filled with appetizers and champagne bubbling away.
&Beyond offers 16 locations throughout Africa with both camp and lodge experiences. Trips can be booked as a tour or customizable. This fall the company opens two new lodges in Botswana. To find out more about &Beyond visit their website: www.andbeyond.com.
South African Airlines business class is an excellent way to fly to Africa. Our flight went from New York to Johannesburg with a brief stop in Dakar. The seats were incredibly comfortable and reclined almost into a bed. Flights depart JFK once a day, and travel time to Johannesburg is about 18 hours.
Bring mosquito repellent, Dramamine if you have motion sickness, plenty of sunscreen, a soft, pliable wide-brimmed hat, and loose clothing. Being on safari often means you won?t get out of the car for many hours at a time, so you want to be comfortable. Flip-flops and sneakers or light hiking shoes are great to have in the vehicle.
Part One | Part Two